So Twisted He’s Crooked

A crooked Little Vein book jacket

It’s hard not to see Spider Jerusalem when reading about the private detective Mike McGill in Warren Ellis’ debut novel, Crooked Little Vein. The book reads much like the Transmetropolitan comic, the graphics are simply replaced by explicit imagery of human depravity limited to words. The circumstances of the novel’s coming into this world are also suspiciously reminiscent of McGill’s alter ego’s state of affairs with a never-tiring editor hounding him for a book.

Aside from all the commonalities with the comic that made Ellis’ reputation, Crooked Little Vein certainly stands up on its own as a decadent and hyperbolic catalogue of perversities visited upon the (human) body and mind beginning with some fairly innocent lizard loving and continuing on into sexual needs requiring suffering of innocents. All this is tied together by McGill’s mission to retrieve the American Constitution. The one bound in hide of extraterrestrials with untold power within its pages.

Much like Ellis’ other work, this book is depraved, but also funny. Ellis obviously can’t get past his fascination with human ejaculate, urine and stool, but that’s OK. I like that stuff too. Somewhere amongst that mess he works in politics and some ideas about what is really underground and what is actually mainstream when we have the Internet.

Arguments between McGill and his assistant, Trix—“a crazed omnisexual vaginalist with a string of lovers from genders they don’t even have names for yet”—lead the reader to consider what is supposed to be normal and what is American anyhow. But don’t worry, all that thinking is always broken up with descriptions of hellish toys given to rich kids to help them masturbate to the words of American truth: “Women are best when they can’t talk any more… If they can’t see your drinking, you’re not an alcoholic.”

The scenes are described with such clarity the reader can’t escape visualizing them and the chapters are short and choppy; fast paced and overcome with pornography and bodily excretions. Sure, it’s sort of disgusting, but who could possibly not laugh at a private detective describing how he solved a case “by tasting the cadaver’s todger.” Something about using high English to describe sucking off a corpse brings happiness to my heart. And really, there is nothing particularly X-rated or raw here, although there is plenty to stir up a mild temperament. But that’s not what you’re about, is it, reader? Middle-aged men having relations with ostriches? I see your eyes lighting up with that special little glow.

Warren Ellis Crooked Little Vein is not a great work of art, but it is an interesting little mystery and even a bit of a romantic comedy. Without question the book’s greatest asset is in its compendium of depravities which are described in detail and then used in the plot to generate the sort of laughing you kind of feel dirty about later.

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (July 24, 2007)

Article Copyright © 2007 to ETL

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